This room is cold, uncomfortable and too damn small for four men. We’ve got three broken windows letting in the wind, a wretched smell of dead fish (from Terry and me) and smoke (from the city). In fact, the only good thing I can say about this room is that it’s completely surrounded by water. But that’s really all we can ask for at the moment.
It’s early, but it’s already getting dark, and the rain has faded into a deep fog. We still have power, but the way things are going I’m not sure that’s going to last. So I figured, seeing as how I’ve sort of made it my life’s goal to be a writer, I might as well be the resident reporter, and use this down time to let people know what’s going on. And here he is now, our man on the front line, live from Freak City, Connecticut. What can you tell us, DM?
Static...It’s looking grim, Jim. Ghost of a smile...
Actually, that’s not my style. Let me give it to you my way. Bear with me a while, okay? I’m a great believer in background information. I don’t have time to polish things up, but I’ll do the best I can.
Before I moved to New Haven, I lived across the river from New York, and I always thought New York was Freak Central, but after living here for a year and a half I think I can safely say that New York has nothing on us in the weird and crazy department. This town is maybe one twentieth the size of NYC, but freaks seem to feel an irresistible attraction to the place. They’re on the streets, pissing behind the bus shelters. They’re on the bus with you, in the senior citizen seats, eyes traversing back and forth like hungry dogs every time anything female gets on the bus. They’re looking for remnants of Little Mermaid fabric at Wal-Mart, telling you they’ll get rid of Bush if you give them a dollar, asking you out of the blue if you’re lonely. They’re knocking on your door at two AM asking you for a cigarette.
Down at the docks, there’s a guy named Paul. Paul seems like a pretty decent character, except you can’t talk to him. He just totally ignores you unless you’ve been a lobsterman for at least ten years. Acts like you haven’t said a word. He’ll talk to people, but not if they talk to him first. But he seems okay overall, I mean he’s helped us unload pots and things like that, never expecting to be paid or anything.
But this guy Paul is not a lobsterman. He’s a construction worker. It’s just that he’s been on strike for fifteen years. Nobody even remembers why he went on strike, but he still expects to go back to work any day now. He sleeps in his car, and he never parks it the same place two nights in a row because They’re looking for him. And you hear this, and you think uh-oh, another freak. But They really are looking for him. They’ve already tried to kill him once. This is documented.
They caught him in a phone booth, back in the days when there were phone booths. A car pulled up behind him, window open, bang bang bang bang bang bang. At point blank, six bullets, at least one of them right in the back of the head. The car was pulling away before he even started to fall, which is good because he didn’t fall. He hung up the phone, dialled 911 and reported the shooting. Then he fell.
These things happen.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have the old New England weirdness. This is the landscape that produced H.P. Lovecraft, Washington Irving, and Herman Melville, amongst others, and you can feel that vibe still hanging around us. We have some of the oldest churches in America right here in town. There are crypts. The ghosts of the Puritans are still with us. The Skull and Bones society is based about a block away from the coffee shop where I do most of my writing, and even though I’ve never bought any of the Illuminati hype that is invoked under that name, the mood of the society fits perfectly with New England’s particular craziness. The first Europeans who settled in this area were fucking morbid, okay? The gates of the biggest and oldest cemetery around read “the dead shall be raised”, I shit you not. Maybe that means something holy and hopeful to a Christian. To me it just says “Welcome to Goth country, enjoy your stay.”
There’s an undercurrent.
Anyway, this morning we officially opened the winter lobster season. I’d been waiting for it for a long time. My wallet was so fucking empty even the moths had gone off to look for greener pastures. I got up at five AM, turned on the coffeepot and went online to check the weather.
Whenever I tell people that lobstering depends on the weather, they nod and say, “yes, it’s been pretty cold and rainy lately,” or something like that. But that stuff doesn’t matter to us. We will fish in rain and in the cold. But we can’t fish in high winds or overly rough seas. So when I go online to check the weather, I don’t even look at the regular weather reports. I go straight to the coastal forecasts, which tell me that today the wind is going to be 10-20 knots out of the northeast, with gusts up to 25, fading away towards afternoon. I think it’s going to be extremely shitty for me, dangling my ass over the back of a boat in 20-knot winds, but we haven’t worked in far too long, the weather isn’t showing any sign of lightening, and I really need some money. So I dress warm, fill my Thermos with coffee, and head on out.
If I’d seen the landlubbers’ weather report, I might have known that something was up, and I might have stayed at home. And I would already be dead, most likely.
I got my bike and locked the door. Just before I rode off, I saw my cat come out of the bushes. I hadn’t seen her in a couple of days, and she looked pretty beat up. Actually she looked downright mangled. Her fur was all matted in tufts, and one of her eyes was swollen to a slit, and she had something in her mouth. I chirruped to her and opened the door for her to go in and warm up, but she just gave me that “I’ve been really naughty so fuck you, human” look that cats do so well, and shrank into the bushes again.
“Come on, you stupid cat, it’s freezing out there,” I coaxed, but the bitch actually hissed at me. She is not what you might call a nice cat, and sometimes I can understand why my wife hates her so much. And I was already running late. So I just locked the door and got back on the bike, hoping my wife would take care of her despite their rocky relationship.
One of the things that’s kind of creepy about my job is that I have to ride my bike right through hardcore freak territory at five in the morning. You don’t usually see people out at that time of day, but when you do they’re always freaks. One morning I passed a half-dressed blonde girl wandering around in a daze, and she just looked at me and asked me for a cigarette. Some mornings I see guys sitting in cars at the gas station, waiting for god knows what. Most times it’s just a couple of people trudging down the street in hoodies, probably guys like me who work ungodly hours trying to make a buck, but even they scare me at that time of day.
This morning there were more than usual, maybe six or seven people out just hanging around, walking slowly along the sidewalk, slumped against telephone boxes trying to make collect calls to their drug dealers, whatever it is these people do. I almost hit one guy crossing the street in a shuffle, not looking right or left, as if he’d bought the fucking street. He didn’t even look at me when I passed him. And he had that smell people get when they’ve lived on the street for years, makes you think they’re rotting or something.
But I got to the docks intact, we loaded a few miscellaneous pieces of gear and set out. On our way out, the Thompson Street bridge operator warned us to stay close, because there was some freakish weather coming up. It wasn’t long before we saw what he was talking about. As soon as we passed the jetty we could feel the waves building up, and by the time we went through the breakwall we had our rain gear buttoned up tight to fight off a wind that was a lot closer to 20 than 10. The boat was jumping around like a rodeo bull, and I could see Terry thinking maybe we should just turn around and go home.
If it was up to me, we would have. But Terry is sort of a lobstering Ahab. Lobstering is his quest. It’s in his blood. He hates to miss a day on the water. And on the first day of the season, and considering our last season sucked abominably, it probably would have taken a hurricane to convince him to give up. So we kept on heading out, thinking we could set one line at least and see how it went, so we could at least get some traps fishing. Lots of days start out with horrid weather and turn into beautiful days by eight o’clock, so it was worth a try.
Today wasn’t one of those days. When the sun came up behind the clouds the sky was sort of green, like it gets in tornado season, and there was some major lightning flickering away behind those green clouds. It was only raining in spurts, but the wind was a constant bitch. By the time we finished setting that first line we were both more than ready to call it quits. Terry gave me the wheel and ordered me to go north. He never says “take us home” or “that’s it for the day.” Just “go north.” It’s like he doesn’t want to admit that the day is over.
We could see that shit was going down before we even cleared the breakwall, even driving straight into the wind and rain. The biggest, darkest clouds were right over town, and it looked like smoke was rising up to join them from several different spots. Lightning was going off every ten seconds, and as soon as we entered the harbor we could see police flashers on every road. There was a lot of action on the water, too - it seemed like every fucking pleasure craft docked in New Haven had just decided to go for a spin. Right about there, I decided that something was seriously wrong, because those rich guys don’t even dare leave the marina if there’s any chance they might get their L.L. Bean raingear wet.
And the Thompson Street bridge was up. That’s not normal. That bridge is a pretty important access road. It never stays up for more than a minute. We called the bridge operator to make sure he wasn’t about to lower it on us, and to find out what the hell was going on.
“Sorceress to Thompson, come in.” Silence. “Sorceress to Thompson Street bridge, come in please.” Nothing. “Sorceress to Chapel Street.”
There was silence for a few more seconds, then he answered.
“Chapel Street, Sorceress, what can I do for ya?”
“Are you hearing us all right, Chapel? Thompson isn’t answering us, I thought it might be our radio.”
Again, it took a while for the guy to respond.
“I hear you just fine, Sorceress. Thompson might be a little busy at the moment.”
“Can you relay that we’re going under him right now? I don’t want him to close on us.”
“He’s not gonna close on you, Sorceress. We’re staying open. Stay out there.”
Our radio sucks, and I can never understand what the guys are saying on it, so I glanced over to see if Terry had heard what I heard. And over his shoulder I saw the edge of the Thompson Street bridge. We were just starting to go under the bridge, and the edge of the roadway was about twelve or fifteen feet above us. And there was a mob around the southern tower on that side, what looked like a few dozen people pressing forward to get to the tower’s door, to the stairs going up to the control room.
It was still raining.
The radio crackled. “I say, stay out there, Sorceress. We’ve got rioting. Bridges are staying open, and I advise staying out in the harbor until the situation is back to normal.”
“What’d he say?”
“That’s what I thought.”
As we drifted past the bridge, one of the guys in the crowd swung an axe at the door. I think Terry and I must have thought of our families at the exact same second. I jumped belowdeck to get my celphone, and called home. Terry told me to hurry up, but he was calling his wife too.
“Hello?” said my wife. I knew right away that something bad had already happened at home.
“Hey. What’s going on over there? I’m seeing all these guys out trying to wreck the Thompson Street bridge or something, and the guys are telling me there’s rioting.”
“Rioting? What are you talking about?” she spat. “Your fucking cat just bit Daigoro.”
“What? Which cat?” If there’s a stupid question to be asked, you can usually bet that I’ll be asking it. It’s one of my talents.
“Which cat do you think? Robin. She bit Daigoro, and tried to scratch me. She won’t quit. I think she’s got rabies or something, she looked all messed up. I locked her ass in the bathroom. This is it, God damnit. Those cats are history. I don’t care how much you love them, I’m not putting up with this shit anymore. I’m taking Daigoro to the hospital, and by the time we get back I want those cats gone.”
Did I mention my wife doesn’t really care for my cats?
“I don’t think you should go out right now,” I told her.
“I’m not waiting. If that cat has rabies, Daigoro needs to get a shot right away. Shut up, Robin! Your stupid cat’s still trying to claw through the door. If she messes up my door I’m going to kill her myself. And the other one keeps hissing at the door. Robin bit her, too. Where are you?”
“I’m by the bridge. I’ll be home as soon as I can.”
“Well, I’m going now. Get rid of those fucking cats. I’m serious.”
I don’t know what was worse, my news or Terry not getting any answer at home or on his wife’s celphone. I told him my news and he made up his mind to move.
“Chapel Street, this is Sorceress. We’re coming in.”
“You’re fucking crazy, Sorceress. We’ve got major trouble over here, and it’s happening all over town. I’m telling you, stay out on the water.”
But of course we wanted to get in and go as quickly as we could to see what was happening at home.
By this time we were drifting around the inner harbor, in the space between the bridges, and we could see what the bridge guy was talking about. There was another little crowd on the road by the Chapel Street bridge, which is right before our dock. Chapel Street is a much smaller bridge than Thompson, and it’s a turntable-style bridge rather than a lifter. There was a line of four or five cars stopped at the bridge, and a good-sized crowd of people surrounding them. They were smashing windows, pulling doors open, reaching into the cars. Screams came over the water quite clearly. It was like some kind of mass hysteria.
We were moving towards the bridge slowly, and the closer we got the worse it looked. When we were almost at the bridge itself, we saw another car pull up behind the stopped cars. The driver hit his horn a couple of times, perhaps thinking the bridge just didn’t realise there were people waiting to cross. But honking was a bad idea. As soon as they heard the noise, the angry crowd turned as one, like they were robots, and started to limp towards the new arrival. Right before we floated by the bridge, hiding them from our view, one big rioter put his entire arm through the driver’s window. Then the screaming started all over again.
“You sure we really want to dock?” I asked Terry. I knew he was having the same doubts, but he wasn’t about to admit to them.
“Get ready to scramble,” he told me. “Tie the back end loosely, we might want to take off. But if it’s clear out there, we’re gonna run for my car as soon as we can.” As he spoke, he was checking the little flaregun he keeps behind the instrument panel.
I put my celphone in my pants pocket under my rain gear and got a hammer out of the toolbox. We came in fast, and it was all I could do to keep the stern end of the boat from slamming into the dock. I tied my end up and jumped up the ladder to unlock the gate. Just then I heard a car coming with tires scrambling over the gravel.
Before I even got to the gate, I saw Paul coming at full speed in his beat-up brown car. Crazy Paul. Construction-worker-on-strike Paul. Resident psycho and all-around nice guy. He was driving like a guy who’s spent far too many hours playing Grand Theft Auto.
He skidded to a Blues-Brothers-type stop right in front of the gate and was out of the car in a second. “Open it up!” he was shouting before he even got out. “Open the gate! Don’t stop your engine, Terry! Hurry up!” He was holding a shotgun.
“We were going to go home, check on our families,” I told him while I fumbled at the padlock.
“Shut up, greenhorn. You can’t go anywhere. Nowhere to go. Come help me with these things.”
I wondered what things he had in his trunk, but before I could ask him he was dumping weapons into my arms. The guy had an entire arsenal there. Shotgun, rifle, two automatics, flares, even a hatchet. With lots of ammunition for every piece. I started to realise that his famous assassination attempt might not have been just another case of mistaken identity.
“Put all that on the boat,” he ordered.
I was about to ask him what he was doing (see intelligent questions, above) when I saw the first rioters come around the corner of the parking lot about a hundred feet away. They were moving slowly, and quite a few of them looked like they were on their last legs. But there were twenty, maybe thirty of them, covered in blood, looking at us as if we were lunch. I told Paul to hurry up and ran the weaponry back to the boat, where Terry was already casting off the lines we had tied. He couldn’t have seen the mob yet, but I guess he had seen enough weirdness to trust Paul without questioning.
I handed the guns and stuff down to him as quickly as I could, and turned back to see how Paul was doing. He had gotten everything he needed out of the trunk and was in our yard, trying to lock the gate. Then the first rioter reached the gate.
I don’t know why I keep calling them rioters. I know well enough what they are. Do I just not want to say it, like Terry not wanting to admit when we’ve finished fishing for the day? Do I think that if I don’t say it, it won’t be true? Maybe I just don’t want to face the fact that what bit my daughter, what trashed our boat, what surrounds us even now, groaning and hissing, is something undead. Because that’s just too much. You don’t want to believe that things have gone so massively wrong. That this could be the last time I ever write a daylog, and that very soon there might not even be anybody around to read daylogs. Because I seriously doubt that zombies do E2. There, I said it. Zombies.
“The dead shall be raised.” You stupid fucks, don’t you know writing a thing like that on a cemetery gate is just asking for trouble?
I’m losing focus here. The more I write, the more I think about it, the worse it gets for me. I’ll try to finish before I break down. I’m losing daylight, anyway.
Paul was wrestling with the chain and the lock, and I guess he didn’t hear the things approaching until the first one got to the gate. Without even pausing, it bent down and grabbed his fingers through the chain link, put its face down and bit. Paul screamed and went flying backwards, having no fingers to grip the gate with. Immediately the things started pushing the gate open.
I had nothing to use as a weapon, so I just went and grabbed him by the shoulders. I strained a muscle - Paul is a really big guy, something along the lines of Marv in Sin City - but I managed to drag him back towards the boat. I was just running on autopilot by then, old army training taking over when my brain stopped working. I got him to the ladder by the boat, and he managed to cling to the ladder until Terry took hold of him, and I jumped down and helped Paul into the wheelhouse. We spun out of there as fast as a lobster boat can spin.
It wasn’t fast enough. Two of the things fell on us before we got away - they didn’t jump or anything, they just walked off the dock and fell. One of them landed on the stacked lobster pots we hadn’t cleared off the boat. The other hit the deck right behind Terry, going straight for him without a second’s pause. He let out a yell and tried to shake the thing off. I had just seen the second zombie clinging to the side of the stacked pots. I saw Paul’s hatchet lying on the floor next to him, and eventually figured out that one plus one equals two. Grabbed the hatchet and went out the back door to chop the ropes tying the stack together while Terry fought with the other one.
As soon as the rope was cut, the stack collapsed under the zombie’s pull, and it went overboard still holding on to two pots. We lost six or seven pots there, but I figured that for once nobody was going to yell at me for losing pots. I turned around just in time to see Terry finally hurling his opponent over the side. Unfortunately, the thing had distracted him at just the wrong time, and about a second later we ran into the structure supporting the Chapel Street bridge.
The impact flung us all around pretty hard. I got some pretty nasty cuts and bruises from the lobster pots falling on top of me, and Terry got knocked up some on the wheel. But we didn’t find the worst damage until Terry tried to reverse. We heard a hideous grating sound, and the boat shuddered violently, but didn’t move an inch. Terry jumped up to the front deck and leaned over to look at the hull. “We got a hole,” he shouted back to me. “Big one.”
The zombies were standing on the dock, watching us and groaning, and I was still afraid that one of the ones that went in the water would suddenly pop up and jump onto the boat. But I guess they don’t swim, because those two vanished without a trace and none of the others looked eager to jump in after us. Mind you, you couldn’t really say that any of them looked eager for anything. It was right at that moment that I think all three of us realised what the things were. It was pretty obvious that they weren’t ordinary rioters. They were covered in blood, and most of them were missing pieces. Half of them were muddy and wearing grayish old rags that hardly covered a thing, while the other half wore newish clothes and didn’t seem to have been buried. I guess they were recent victims.
“Let’s get up to the bridgehouse,” I suggested. Terry didn’t want to abandon the boat, but between Paul and I we managed to convince him. The bridge tender didn’t really want us there, but between a shotgun, an axe and a Beretta we managed to convince him, too.
So here we are. Me, Terry, Paul and Angelo the bridge tender. We’ve got a little bit of canned food pulled out of the boat, we’ve got all the weapons we could want, and we’re surrounded by water. Our celphones aren’t working, but we’ve got Internet access. I used that as soon as we got settled in, scanning various news sites and alternative sources. Of course the big news chains aren’t carrying anything except reports of “health care crisises” (sic), “freak storms”, and “pre-Halloween pranks perpetrated by Goths”, but looking elsewhere I’m hearing about things like the Shelley Project and the Zozobra Project, plague, deathworms, space-borne virii and other choice delicacies. I read Jet-Poop’s daylog, and notice that the BBC News is reporting some kind of anthrax outbreak near Lubbock, TX. I hope the guy is okay. I have this image of him holed up in a bunker with a flamethrower, surrounded by bottled water and tins of caviar. But seriously, there’s a lot of daylogs about this thing, and a lot of rumours on alternanews websites, and I’m kind of curious about how long the news conglomerates think they can keep this bottled up.
Then again, I might not be around to see the real story unveiled. Looking at various webcams around town, I can see that a fair portion of New Haven has gone undead, and most of the rest of it is smoking. Looking up at the sky, I can see the lightning getting more frequent than ever through the fog. And I’m wondering if my wife managed to dismember the cat, or if she still expects me to get rid of it. And I’m remembering that Paul got bitten, and he is by far the biggest, strongest, and best armed member of our little party.
It’s almost dark now.